Monday, January 1, 2018

What is a Paleo Baptist?

I would like to welcome you all to my blog, thank you for joining me. I am excited to begin this adventure and see where this blog will go in this new year.  But I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who assisted me in starting this blog, and getting the ball rolling. I would like to especially thank Marie Gregg for her help with the blog design, and her advice. She has an awesome blog that you guys should check out. I would also like to thank all of my brothers and sisters in the Society of Evangelical Arminians for all of their fellowship and support.

In this inaugural post, I will answer the question that I have been asked the most in making this blog. "What is a Paleo Baptist?"  It's no shock that I am a Baptist, but what does that word Paleo mean? Well before I can define what it is, I must clarify what it is not. It is not some trendy new diet that has been marketed to Baptists (though a lot us of us Baptists could probably use something of that sort). It is not a return to Rome, or a Jesuit scheme to infiltrate our ranks. The word Paleo as I use it here on my blog, refers to a theological movement called Paleo-Orthodoxy. The term was coined by the great Methodist scholar Thomas C Oden. As a call for Evangelicals to reclaim our theological heritage. You may ask if we have need of such a movement, or of what importance (if any) is our christian heritage."I mean, all I really need is my Bible right?" Sadly this is the reaction of many evangelicals. The bitter truth is, we have fallen into theological relativism. For every 10 believers we have 12 different views on any given text or doctrine. When I dialogue with my Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox friends, their main reason for rejecting Sola Scriptura is our dis-unity, and our knack for dividing over nearly everything. I would argue that the majority of disagreements among orthodox evangelicals are minute and non essential (and that they have just as much division in their own traditions). But they have a point, we are far to divided. You can name pretty much any topic or doctrine, and I can show you evangelicals going to the mat over it. Both claiming the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit's leading to be in their corner. Are the Sacred Scriptures contradictory, or the Holy Spirit schizophrenic? God forbid!!

What is the problem, how did we end up here? Surely the Reformers didn't have this in mind. Where did we go wrong? I believe the seeds of this were definitely sown in the Reformation (but that's a discussion for another article). I affirm that the Reformation was absolutely necessary. And  I stand with them in denying the perversions of the Roman church. (I am a Classical Arminian so I am 100% Protestant.) But an unintentional result of the Reformation was that we lost any connection to our roots as Christians, and in the midst of our identity crisis we reinvented the Church in our image. We embraced the individualism of our modern western society and never turned back. 

So now that I've stated the problem, you may be asking yourself "Is Evangelicalism doomed to die the death of thousand divisions?" No,  we haven't gotten there yet. There is a way that we can avoid that. The key to fixing this problem is Paleo-Orthodoxy. We have mistakenly believed that it's up to us as individuals to determine what the Bible means and define the entire Christian faith for ourselves. Not realizing that much of the ground work has been layed for us. That faithful men of God fought and died to defend the faith from heresy and pass on the definition of the true Christian faith. We have a wealth of tradition as Christians. But we have opted to ignore all christian history before 1517. Not realizing that theological innovation is a cancer to the church. It was unwarranted innovation in the Roman Church that made the Reformation necessary in the first place.

At this point you might be thinking to yourself (especially if you're a Southern Baptist). "Is he saying that the Bible isn't sufficient?" But you would be wrong. I affirm Sola Scriptura, and I affirm the perspicuity of the Scriptures. The problem is not the with the Bible, it's our errant interpretations of the scripture that are the issue. God promised that his word would never err, but he never made such statements about us. And honestly I'm not the only Baptist to realize this, the Calvinists in the SBC are doing the same thing. But they are looking back to Spurgeon, Edwards and Calvin. And though I admire their desire for something deeper, they simply don't go deep enough. And as we've seen Calvinism hasn't done much for unity among evangelicals.

We need to go deeper, further back. Before there were denominations, Before we had divisions. Back when the Church was united. This my friends, is a call to go back to the ancient church. To the early church fathers, to men like Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tertullian, Irenaeus and all the other great fathers of the church. Back to the great creeds and councils that defined and defended orthodox Christian truth. This is what it means to be Paleo-Orthodox. To be humble enough to admit that we can't figure it out on our own. That we need to submit to the consensus of the Fathers and the Creeds and Ecumenical Councils of Christian orthodoxy. Not because they are equal to, or above the Scriptures. But because they faithfully teach the truth contained within the Scripture. And you don't have to become Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. (It was actually studying the Fathers that caused me to reject those traditions) They belong just as much to me as a Baptist as anybody. So if you are a Christian, regardless of Denomination or tradition, this is your history, these are your spiritual ancestors, and this is your faith. This my friends is the answer to the dis-unity in modern evangelicalism. And this is why I call myself, The Paleo Baptist.

Thanks for reading, May God richly bless you in this new year!!